2012 In Pictures

I continue to be fascinated how transportation affects each and every one of our lives.  Whether it be a trip to the grocery store, a commute to work or a vacation trip across the state, we rely on this system to help us get to our destinations.  I thought it would be worth reflecting on 2012, and hope you enjoy the journey with me.

As the snow eased for the day, the setting sun turned clouds orange over the SR 520 east high rise (Explored!)
This was a scene from a wintry January SR 520 weekend closure as we continued work in the area to get ready for a new bridge.  Although tolling on SR 520 officially started in 2011, 2012 saw drivers adjusting their commutes as they help pay for a safer, more reliable bridge.

Crews clear avalanche debris at the snowshed
Early January saw significant snowfall to the mountain passes.  Here we see a familiar scene on I-90 as crews perform avalanche control near the snowshed.

Not often do you see plows out in force on I-5 in Thurston County, but we saw that during storms in early January.

Snowmobiling the North Cascades Highway
Crews checking out snow depth and conditions on the North Cascades Highway on March 7, 2012.

Avalanche control work at the snowshed
Snow continued to fall on the passes into March.  Here we see a result of avalanche control on I-90.

SR 99 tunnel prep - driving supports underground
SR 99 tunnel prep in Seattle continued throughout 2012.

2012 Workzone Memorial - WSDOT Remembers
We take the time each year to remember those workers who lost their lives in work zones.  There were some close calls but fortunately didn't lose anyone in 2012 and we're hoping you Give 'Em a Brake in 2013.

EV drivers from Canada join us at the West Coast Electric Highway Grand Opening
May 30, 2012, saw the grand opening of the West Coast Electric Highway, helping reduce range anxiety for electric vehicle drivers on main corridors in Oregon and Washington.

Baby in a bag
One of my personal favorites, banding a baby Peregrine Falcon. This chick is nesting in a box under the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge in Seattle. The mother of this chick has been on the bridge since 2002. Follow the entire account of falcon banding on our Storify site.

The storm before the flood - SR 14 slide recovery
Anyone else remember that crazy storm we had in July?  This particular cloud dumped several inches of rain on SR 14 and caused quite a mess with multiple mudslides and guardrail damage.

Northbound I-5 entrance into the express lanes
Automating the I-5 express lanes was a big step forward for us in 2012.  Instead of taking an hour to change the lane direction, new equipment was installed that cut the time to 15 minutes. Watch a YouTube video describing these changes.

Now we’re getting somewhere – The SR 99 tunnel boring machine stands tall
In August, we got our first glimpse of the world's largest-diameter tunnel boring machine. It was built in Japan and will dig the SR 99 tunnel beneath downtown Seattle starting in summer 2013.

Nearly three years after a landslide destroyed a quarter mile of SR 410 west of Naches, crews rebuilt the state highway along the toe of the landslide. On Aug. 30, Nile Valley residents and business owners were the first in line to drive on the new route that saves time and money.

This is how we limbo on SR 520
August saw more SR 520 weekend closures as construction continued throughout the year as we demolished overpasses, installed larger culverts and prepped the roadway for a new, wider SR 520.

In August, crews closed SR 167 in both directions for a weekend to add a new 19’ wide new fish friendly culvert.

New Olympic class ferry bulkhead construction
2012 also saw construction of the first of two new Olympic Class, 144-car ferries.  This one was named Tokitae.

Crews are making great progress on I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass! In November, the new westbound lanes opened to traffic, and by next fall, we’ll complete the first three miles of five miles of improvements. By 2017, I-90 will be wider and less congested along Keechelus Lake, just east of Hyak, with fewer closures from avalanche-control work.  We hope to continue the improvements all the way to Easton.

Construction on the North Spokane Corridor freeway reached a significant milestone in 2012 with 5.7 miles of the 10-mile route fully completed and open to traffic.

Fish heads and guts spill on US 101
Sometimes you just can't give enough credit to crews out in the field who work to keep highways open. On a quiet Friday morning in October, 42,000 pounds of fish heads and guts were scattered across US 101 in southern Pacific County.  The semi was off the road within a couple of hours, but it took many more to clean up all the residual. Yuck.

Demolition begins on the old SR 16 eastbound Nalley Valley viaduct in Tacoma to make way for a new, expanded viaduct. Eastbound SR 16 traffic is driving on a temporary bridge until the new viaduct is completed later this year.

Rebar cage

An artful shot of crews assembling rebar cages for the new I-5 Salmon Creek interchange, which is in it's final stages of completion.

We are gaining momentum in delivering nearly $800 million in federally funded rail projects with the goal of providing faster, more frequent Amtrak Cascades service between Seattle and Portland. Five of our 20 federally-funded projects were under construction or completed in 2012, with five more set to break ground in 2013. The most recent completed project added two new tracks through BNSF’s busy rail yard near Everett to reduce the conflicts and delays from freight traffic.

Six feet of snow on Mount Baker Highway since Friday
While this shot is of Mount Baker highway, which saw hundreds of trees down across the roadway, December saw a 69-hour closure of US 2 from Stevens summit to Leavenworth due to falling trees (first time for that…). It started on Saturday, Dec. 22, and continued through Christmas Day. This unique phenomenon even had prominent meteorologist Cliff Mass blogging about the falling trees.

For Stevens pass, despite the higher than usual snow totals for the past two La Nina winters, December 2012 beat them. We had a total of 253 inches  by Dec. 22 – a total we didn't reach last winter until Jan. 23.

Launch pit gets deeper
The launch pit for the SR 99 tunneling machine.  When complete, it will be 400 feet long, 80 feet wide and 80 feet deep.

Social Media
Our social media audience continued to grow in 2012 as many people found value in the real-time information we provide via those channels.  Here's an example of the content we put on Twitter.

In September, Apple released iOS 6 update that included their new mapping software. Realizing how dependent some folks are on their mobile devices for navigation we decided to raise awareness of the flaws in the new mapping system by using a little tongue-in-cheek humor on Twitter:

Here's a list of the rest of the best tweets of 2012.

Other notable items worth mentioning:
  • First 520 pontoons floated into Lake Washington.  
  • For the first time, the Coast Guard began allowing boats to pass through the drawspan in the middle of the day with two hours notice. We had to figure out how to let drivers know before they were on the road that the bridge would open at a particular time. Our traditional alerts are primarily for media outlets. For this, we knew we had to reach drivers directly and do it in a way that gave them ample warning without overdoing it… as a result, a special alert just for 520 users that they could opt to receive as a text or an email.  
  • In May, crews completed an interchange on US 12 near Burbank, east of the Tri-Cities. The 60-mph traffic on US 12 no longer has to stop at a traffic signal, and  SR 124 drivers now use freeway ramps to enter and exit US 12, reducing conflicts and collisions.
  • Central Washington saw one of the worst forest fires in decades dubbed the Taylor Bridge Fire that closed SR 10 and US 97 multiple times in August.
  • Two I-5 widening projects were under way last year, one in Clark County and one in Lewis County. Together, they total $288 million in gas tax investments and improve traffic flow for more than 100,000 drivers. Both are still under construction and scheduled for completion within the next two years.
  • Two Clark County projects eliminated three at-grade intersections, one of which (SR 500/St. Johns) was one of the most dangerous in the area, with an average of one collision a week.
  • Finally started construction on the new vessel for the Keller Ferry route.  The “Sanpoil” will replace the “Martha S.’ which is the oldest vessel in our fleet, having been launched in 1948.
  • Fully completed the north 5.7 miles of the 10.5-mile North Spokane Corridor freeway.

    Quite a busy year when you look back on it, thanks for being there with us, here's to a safe 2013.